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Current 93 – Swastikas For Noddy / Crooked Crosses for the Nodding God

The Spheres

Current 93 - Swastikas For NoddySwastikas For Noddy was my favourite of Current 93‘s work until Thunder Perfect Mind stole its glory some years later. It’s very much a family affair, a pulling of disparate threads directed by David Tibet chasing his hallucinogenic vision of a crucified Noddy.

After much heavy drone and wailing angst, this was also C93’s first full-length folk-style release (or was that Earth Covers Earth, or did Imperium beat them all to it? It’s all too tangled ). You could say it’s a bit of a landmark as far as the band were concerned, something that opened the floodgates for Tibet’s imagination to run — and continue to run — amok.

A starting point whose contents feel a bit sketch-like and wonderfully inconsistent in places. You can feel the vision forming with each track. Brewing from the Dogs Blood Rising leftovers like “Panzer Ruin” into a few blind alleys, then catalyst-thrust into the wilds with the frankly unhinged “Beau Soeil”, the strangely touching re-working of Strawberry Switchblade‘s “Since Yesterday” or the original stalker sing-song of “Oh Coal Black Smith”, a changeling-chased tale of misplaced affections that lead six feet under:

And she became a corpse /A corpse all In the ground
And he became the cold grey clay /And smothered her all around

Dissent and discontent abound, the hey-ho occultist Toytowns gaily skipping on through “A-reaping I shall go / A-reaping I shall go / Hey, ho, the noddy, oh / A-reaping I shall go” like some notion of innocence with a murderous glint in the eye. The philosophical bends of Nature Unveiled reappear, such as a reading by Boyd Rice where he surmises that the end of the world is a gradual process that we’ll never notice until it’s too late – suggesting all that is mighty in our civilisation is but an affliction.

The album is a jigger-jag of directions, a rich tapestry of magickal meat and could haves wrapped in a mummified bird hovering like sculptured decay in the centre of a cheery flower bed. Something withered at the heart of things, to be celebrated, alliterated. “And this ain’t the Garden of Eden / There ain’t no angels above / And things ain’t what they used to be… This ain’t the summer of Love”, goes Tibet on the cover of Blue Öyster Cult‘s “The Summer of Love”, all Walpurgis Night teeth with Rose McDowall throwing her witchy la las into “This is the night we ride…”

The acoustic(isms) lilt the nursery; Douglas P and Tibet were close back then, a friendship that continued to be fruitful through to the mid-Nineties with ideas floating between albums and bands, Tibet writing the most touching love song in his honour, until nasty politics soured the house party. Current 93 was like an extended family then, including Iceland’s Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, Tiny Tim, Jhonn Balance and of course Steve Stapleton (his talents uncustomarily subdued for this album). All adding to the party atmosphere, juggling the anti-matters, dicing devilish caricatures for an album littered with fault lines that have continued to reverberate through the Current 93 discography.

*

 Current 93 ‎– Crooked Crosses For The Nodding God Now, Tibet was somehow unhappy with the results after coming back from an inspiring trip to Iceland (so the liner notes suggest), so decided to remix and restructure the above into Crooked Crosses For The Nodding God, included as the second disc in this remastered two CD edition.

Stapleton was roped in for a more hands-on approach this time round, supplying some of the eerier channelling, tinting the stripped-down acoustic feel with verby echoes and smears. That said, the results are far softer than Swastikas and the drums almost disappear entirely, but the acoustic licks are more sparkly and the vocals bask in a reworked studio glisten. Sometimes over-easy on the ear maybe, but this has its benefits: the way Jhonn’s backing vocals shine through on “Final Church” are a pleasure to be savoured as they surf that gliss-like wound; the vocal dynamics of Rose’s childlike intones on “Dark Wood Too Awakes” are good also, brilliantly overtaken by Tibet’s growing shadow as that Hellraiser music box falls on through.

I really like the way “Panzer Rune” has gone completely off-piste as the album’s glowing highlight, with the wanton experiments of the original turned into an insane illustration of the devil. One of Stapleton and Tibet’s best collaborations, kiltering around a choppy sea of keyboard malice (or is that guitar?), wailing incantation and birch-slapped percussion. “There was a man of double deed / Who sowed his garden full of seed”, a tempo of words that build in ferocity until Tibet’s foaming at the mouth spitting barbs: “When the seed begins to grow / ‘Twas like a garden full of FUCKING snooooowwwwwwwww!” — I just love when Tibet loses it, gets all nails on blackboard vocally; he doesn’t do this enough nowadays.

“Snow” is also treated to some haunting doubles that massively improve on the original. My only gripe is that “The Ballad of Bobby Sunshine” has completely lost its umpf when compared with Swastika‘s “Beau Soleil” – I still find myself screaming at the stereo in disbelief. Anyway, that aside, on the whole it’s an interesting division to the original, a sibling that lacks the impulsiveness of its parent, maybe, but one that isn’t a pale impression withering in the light either. I’m so glad these both have been snatched back from those nasty Ebay profiteers and their horrendous price tags.

Hurrzah!

-Michael Rodham-Heaps-

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